Saul Leiter’s painterly images evoke the flow and rhythm of life on the mid-century streets of New York in luminous color, at a time when his contemporaries were shooting in black and white. His mastery of color is displayed in unconventional cityscapes in which reflections, transparency, complex framing, and mirroring effects are married to a very personal printing style, creating a unique kind of urban view; his complex and impressionistic photographs are as much about evoking an atmosphere as nailing the decisive moment.
Saul Leiter remained relatively unsung until he was rediscovered by curators and critics in his early 80s, and his work has been drastically re-evaluated over the last two decades. Leiter’s studio in New York’s East Village, where he lived from 1952 until his death in 2013, is now home to the Saul Leiter Foundation, which is undertaking a full-scale survey and organization of Leiter’s more than 80,000 works. In so doing they have unearthed many previously unpublished photographs, stills, and negatives, a rich selection of which is published here. They include fashion shots, rain-blurred street scenes, early self-portraits, and – most importantly – hitherto unseen photos of his muse and lover, Soames Bantry. These new discoveries shed fresh light on Leiter’s creative practice and demonstrate his enduring appeal.
As Saul Leiter said, “Photographs are often treated as capturing important moments, but they are really small fragments and memories of the world that never ends.”
About the Author
Saul Leiter was born in 1923 in Pittsburgh. He pioneered a painterly approach to color photography in the 1940s and produced covers for fashion magazines such as Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar before largely withdrawing from public attention in the 1980s.
The publication in 2006 of his first collection, Early Color, inspired an avid ‘rediscovery’ that has since led to worldwide exhibitions and the release of a documentary, In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter (2013). He died in New York in 2013. Margit Erb is the founder and director of the Saul Leiter Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving Leiter’s art and legacy. Michael Parillo is the Associate Director of the Saul Leiter Foundation. Otake Akiko is the author of several books, including The History of Modern Photos.